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Several pieces of Pez candy
Pez (trademarked PEZ, in capitals) is the brand name of an Austrian candy and their mechanical pocket dispensers. The candy itself takes the shape of pressed, dry, straight-edged, curved-corner, blocks (15 mm (5/8 inch) long, 8 mm wide and 5 mm high), with Pez dispensers holding 12 Pez pieces.
Pez was originally introduced in Austria, later exported, notably to the U.S., and eventually became available worldwide. The all-uppercase spelling of the logo echoes the trademark's style on the packaging and the dispensers themselves, with the logo drawn in perspective and giving the appearance that the letters are built out of 44 brick-like Pez candies (14 bricks in the P and 15 in each of the E and Z).
Despite the widespread recognition of the Pez dispenser, the company considers itself to be primarily a candy company, and over 3 billion candy bricks are consumed each year in the U.S. alone. Pez Dispensers are part of popular culture in many nations. Because of the large number of dispenser designs over the years, they are collected by enthusiasts.
Pez was first marketed as a compressed peppermint sweet or candy in Vienna, Austria. It was invented in 1927 in Vienna by a candy maker named Eduard Haas III Haas invented peppermints using family owned baking powders, and decided to serve the mints in small, hand-size containers. He manufactured a small tin to hold the mints, similar to the modern Altoids tins. The first Pez mint dispensers, known as "regulars," were similar in shape to a cigarette lighter, and dispensed an adult breath mint marketed as an alternative to smoking. They were invented by Oscar Uxa. Haas Food Manufacturing Corporation of Vienna was the first to sell Pez products.
World War II slowed marketing and production. In 1945, manufacturers devised and promoted the Pez Box Regular. In 1952 Eduard Haas introduced his product to the United States, and Curtis Allina headed Pez's U.S. business. In 1955, the Pez company placed heads on the dispensers and marketed them for children. Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse were among the first character dispensers. Since 1950, over 1500 Pez dispensers, including the original character dispensers, have been created.
Pez vending machines were used in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The first German machines were introduced around 1954 and were produced by DWM (Deutsche Waggon- und Maschinenfabrik) and GWS (Georg Wiegandt und Söhne), both of Berlin, Germany. Machines were later introduced in Switzerland and then in Austria, in October 1956; these were produced by Glerios / R.Seipel & Co. and/or Theodor Braun (Vienna).
In 1973, Pez built a factory in Orange, Connecticut, USA. In 1983, Scott McWhinnie became the president of the Pez company. He retired in 2003. Joe Vittoria became President of the company in 2004. Around 2005 the size of the original factory was doubled and the Pez dispenser line was expanded. In the mid-1990s peppermint flavored Pez candies were reintroduced along with remakes of the 'regulars'.
In early 2006 the family of the original founder of the company bought back 32.5% of the stock from investment company PGH for €18M. They now own 67.5% of the company. The headquarters are in Traun, Austria. The Pez candies are produced in Traun and Orange, Connecticut, USA while the dispensers are produced in Hungary and China.
Pez candy has come in a wide variety of flavors over the years, including:
The common American flavors of grape, lemon, orange, raspberry, and strawberry are available in kosher form in specialty markets.
There are several patents related to the Pez dispenser. Pez, Inc. has applied for and received patents related to the Pez dispensers. Usually, the patent number is molded onto the stem changed every time Pez, Inc. made a change in the design of the dispenser. The patent number cannot be reliably used to determine how old the dispenser is. Collectors refer to the first two digits of a patent number as a shorthand for a given patent number. For example, the 5.9 (5,984,285) patent was granted in 1999, but didn't first appear on a Pez item until 2002. By 2007, 4.9 patented items were still regularly appearing on store shelves. Dispensers can also be found with several non-US patents, such as the German "DBP 818.829" (Deutsches Bundes Patent), and the Mexican "Patent Nr 141,242". The patent number timeline related to Pez dispensers are the following.
Name of patent; notes about the patent
|U.S. Patent 2,620,061||1952||Pocket article dispensing container; First patent for the Pez dispenser|
|U.S. Patent 3,410,455||1968||Dispensing Device for tablets|
|U.S. Patent 3,845,882||1974||Spring cage for use in a tablet dispensing receptacle|
|U.S. Patent 3,942,683||1976||Tablet dispensing receptacle|
|U.S. Patent 4,966,305||1990||Tablet dispenser|
|U.S. Patent 5,984,285||1999||Plastic spring|
|U.S. Patent 7,523,841||2009||Tray for storing and individually dispensing tablets|
Injection mold codes
Pez dispenser stems will usually also be embossed with several injection mold codes [IMC]. Some, like those found on the bottom of the dispenser feet, will tell which mold position the specific piece came from. Another, found on the side of the stem, indicates the country of origin. The IMC code 4 is followed by a superscripted second number which identifies a specific facility within that country.
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Early PEZ dispensers did not have heads on them. They were what is known now as "regulars". A regular dispenser is just a rectangular box with a contoured flip top for dispensing the candy. Toy character head dispensers were introduced in 1955, after the candy was introduced in the United States. There are over 550 unique dispenser heads with thousands of variations. The company formerly had a general rule against creating likenesses of real people.
In the 1970s, three historical figures were created: Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone, and Paul Revere, which were released as part of the Bicentennial series. These dispenser heads were not made to actually look like the people they represented, but instead used generic faces with different accessories.
In 2006, a limited-edition series of three Pez dispensers were made to look like the Teutul family from Orange County Choppers. These are the first dispensers to have been made in the actual likeness of living people.
The NASCAR-themed dispensers are based on the helmets of famous drivers, rather than their actual likenesses.
In 2007, a limited edition Elvis set was released featuring three dispensers from different time periods in Presley's life.
In 2008, the first Star Trek dispensers were released in a gift set with the seven original series crew and the Starship Enterprise. A second Star Trek gift set, based on The Next Generation series was released in Fall 2012.
In 2009, in honor of the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, Pez released a boxed set with dispensers in the likenesses of the following characters: the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, Dorothy Gale, Toto, Glinda, the Wizard of Oz, and the Wicked Witch of the West. Only 300,000 sets were made.
In 2010, PEZ released a Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs set, featuring a story book. These are the first characters featured on the "Short Stem" body. Only 250,000 sets were made.
In 2011, one of a kind Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and his wife to be, had been made for charity.
In 2011, an 8-piece limited edition set was released featuring characters from The Lord of the Rings as they appear in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films: Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Gollum. Only 250,000 sets were made. 150,000 Walmart-exclusive sets were made. The Walmart sets did not have Bilbo. Instead, they came with the Eye of Sauron. A Hobbit gift set was released in September, 2013.
In October 2012, PEZ released a limited edition KISS gift set. The Starchild, The Demon, The Catman, and The Spaceman are displayed in a reusable metal gift tin.
There are websites which catalog Pez dispensers, some of which are found in the external links section below.
Value of Pez dispensers
Some Pez dispensers can sell for large amounts as collectibles. The highest verifiable sale of a Pez dispenser was a private sale of a Mickey Mouse softhead at $7,000 between an Austrian dealer and a US collector. This dispenser was never available for sale to the public, and was a factory prototype. The high prices which some Pez items fetch has led to the manufacturing of fake Pez items as well. The 2006 eBay sale of a clear 50s Space Gun for $11,000 took place but according to noted Pez author, David Welch, the dispenser was later proven by chemical testing to be a well-made fake.
The Pez collecting hobby has grown to the point where several conventions are held annually around the world. The oldest convention is Pez-a-Mania, which has been held in Ohio since 1991. Conventions are also annually held in Austria, Finland, Sweden, and in the US in Missouri, California, Minnesota, Connecticut and South Carolina. Pez conventions are a place where collectors and dealers can meet to buy and sell Pez merchandise. There are also typically auctions for charity and games and contests with Pez items as prizes.
In popular culture
- In the movie Stand By Me, Vern played by actor Jerry O'Connell, states that if he could only eat one type of food for the rest of his life - it would be cherry flavour Pez.
- In the TV sit-com Seinfeld, an entire episode was devoted to a Pez dispenser in which Jerry gets one of Kramer's Pez dispensers which makes Elaine laugh during a piano recital of George's girlfriend, and that puts their relationship in jeopardy.
- In Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire, a Pokéblock can be fed to a Pokémon. The candy itself resembles Pez and the case looks like a Pez dispenser as well.
- The band "Less Than Jake" has an affinity for pez, and their first major release was entitled "Pezcore"
- Geary, Richard, More Pez for Collectors, Schiffer Publishing; 3 edition (October 1, 1999). ISBN 978-0-7643-0994-6
- Peterson, Shawn (2007). Shawn Peterson Collectors guide to Pez. Krause Publications. ISBN 978-0-89689-635-2.
- Chertoff, Nina; Kahn, Susan (2006). Celebrating PEZ. Sterling. ISBN 978-1-4027-4227-9.
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